MIT Robot Can 3D Print An Entire Building

Posted: Apr 27 2017, 12:05pm CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
MIT Robot can 3D Print an Entire Building
Credit: Steven Keating

New 3D printing system offers new approach construct buildings

From robots to aerospace, 3D printing has been widely used in many industries. It is a new realm of custom manufacturing that allows people to experiment with different designs, shapes and materials. Now, MIT researchers have taken the technology to another level. They have developed a system that can print out an entire building.

The system consists of a large, hydraulic arm carried by tanklike treads. At the end of the arm is a smaller, robotic arm that can pour concrete or spraying insulation material through its nozzle and creates a structure layer by layer where each subsequent layer relies on its predecessor for support.

Structures build with this system could be produced faster and cheaper than traditional construction methods. Moreover, the technique allows complete customization to the needs of a particular site and the desires of the maker.

“The construction industry is still mostly doing things the way it has for hundreds of years. The buildings are rectilinear, mostly built from single materials, put together with saws and nails,” said Steven Keating from MIT.

“We wanted to show that we could build something tomorrow that could be used right away. With this process, we can replace one of the key parts of making a building, right now. It could be integrated into a building site tomorrow.”

As a proof of concept, researchers constructed the basic structure of a 50-foot-diameter, 12-foot-high dome. During the process, the foam-insulation framework was used to create a basic structure. Then, it was filled with concrete to provide stability. Other materials like dirt or even ice could also be incorporated into process for making construction possible in diverse surfaces. The whole process was completed in less than 14 hours.

Currently, the system requires human supervision to work properly. The ultimate goal is to make it self-sufficient, so that it could be sent to the moon or Mars or Antarctica and used for constructing buildings there.

The system can create complex shapes and designs and can be easily adapted to existing building sites and equipment without requiring whole new evaluations. Construction of a building requires hard materials that can withstand extreme temperatures, weather conditions and wear and tear. So, different materials could also be incorporated as the process goes along and can provide optimum combinations of strength and design.

“So to me it's not merely a printer," said group director Neri Oxman. "But an entirely new way of thinking about making, that facilitates a paradigm shift in the area of digital fabrication, but also for architectural design. ... Our system points to a future vision of digital construction that enables new possibilities on our planet and beyond."

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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